THE BIG STIFF BOX SET
Essential punk and new wave box set.
Stiff Records will go down in history as the most important UK independent label ever. During its thirty years the Stiff staff have released some of the most legendary punk and new wave records of all time. Started by Dave Robinson and Jake Riviera in 1976 on the back of the then-booming pub rock scene, Stiff’s early releases were pretty standard R&B, like Nick Lowe and Lew Lewis, but it was the birth of punk that blew them into orbit. They released The Damned’s ‘New Rose’, the first-ever punk single, following it with hits from the likes of Ian Dury, The Adverts, The Members, Lene Lovich and US whackos Devo. Embracing new wave, they launched the careers of Elvis Costello, Tenpole Tudor (and the excellent Swords Of A Thousand Men), Theatre Of Hate, The Belle Stars, Plasmatics and Any Trouble before moving into ska with Madness’s ‘One Step Beyond’ and giving us the folk punk of the first Pogues records. Along with the ska/soul of America’s The Untouchables, mod sounds like Makin’ Time and The Prisoners, Stiff covered every cool musical revolution first – and with style. Recently reactivated with their latest signings The Tranzmitors and The Producers (included here), this is a hundred track slice of punk and new wave history, complete with 68 page book. Their motto was “If it ain’t Stiff it ain’t worth a fuck’. Long may they remain Stiff!
THE ROAD TO RAMPTON
The League’s first album on their own label.
Of course Tunbridge Wells’ wildest export (not much competition, surely?) have been knocking around since the UK82 boom, and cut a swathe through lesser mortals of the time with a mixture of biker/punk garb, pumping delivery and uncompromising attitude, particularly on ‘So What’, replete with a diatribe of filthy lyrics that backed their fine cover of Ralph MacTells’ ‘Streets Of London’ that made the UK chart in 1982 and would have risen higher if the Obscene Publications Squad hadn’t stepped in. To cut a long story short, the League continued, eventually moving into rather bad metal territory, but eventually saw the error of their ways, and these days purvey a decent enough mixture of rock-tinged punk. Or is that punk-tinged rock? Yes, I think so. And that’s just what you get on ‘The Road To Rampton’, the League’s first album on their own label, and if you pick up the limited edition you can also cop a second DVD disc with a rather swish video for ‘Mother…You’re A Liar’.
THE TRUTH THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
Second comeback album from oi! originals
Strange to think that an album by the Business can be a decade old but still considered among their ‘new’ material, but that’s what happens when bands split and reform. After calling it a day in 1988, the band got back on the recording trail with the fine ‘Keep The Faith’ album in 1994, and built on it, taking deserved advantage of the respect shown by fans and new street punk outfits like Rancid, and even Blink 182. They apparently met up with the latter, and got on well, but understandably had more in common with the former, so it came as no surprise when it was revealed that Lars Frederiksen was to produce the 1997 Business album ‘TTTWTANBTT’ for Burning Heart in Europe and Taang! in the US. It was recorded at former Vibrators bassist Pat Collier’s studio, and the combination proved a winner, giving us a feisty album that stayed true to the band’s oi! and old school punk roots, but upped the pace a little.
Classic punk from Down Under.
New Zealand isn’t really know for its musical output of recent years, other than Crowded House and more recent acts like Die Die Die and Shihad. But back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s it had a thriving punk and new wave scene. Desperate Measures hailed from Christchurch in NZ’s south Island and played a mix of Killing Joke style post-punk and full on three chord thrash. This combines their 1984 EP (the title track could have easily have been an early ‘80s UK band) plus a live in-studio set, where they tackle subjects like bootboys’ mindless violence and police oppression in catchy and feisty fashion. An interesting insight into life Down Under in the early ‘80s and the worldwide spread of punk.
Surprisingly sophisticated for the Dickies.
Despite being one of the earliest Californian punk outfits to make a real splash in the charts, The Dickies struggled a little when A&M dropped them after two albums, but bounced back with a third, ‘Stukas Over Disneyland’, in 1983. To say that the next five years were troublesome for Dickies singer Leonard would be a major understatement, but he persevered, with an ever changing line-up, and it paid off when the band landed the score for the 1988 movie Killer Klowns, released by Enigma as a mini LP. Rejuvenated, they followed it up with ‘Second Coming’, on the same label, and it was a more than worthwhile effort. Still humorous, but with a more serious musical approach, ‘Second Coming’ may have come as a surprise to anyone who only knew the band for their covers of ‘Banana Splits’ or ‘Nights In White Satin’, but I can’t imagine them being disappointed.
BETTER MOTORHEAD THAN DEAD: LIVE AT HAMMERSMITH
Lemmy and company celebrate thirty years of boozing ‘n’ brawling.
Thirty years in the business of rock ‘n’ roll is no mean feat. Hell, Lemmy’s blood type is probably classified as ‘Immortal’ by now. Or at least Jack Daniels. Kicking out the jams before a packed-out crowd at Hammersmith (where the band pretty much made their name with the awesome live album ‘No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith’), Lemmy, Phil and Mikkey tear their way through a twenty three song strong set of classics such as ‘Bomber’, ‘(We Are) The Road Crew’ and ‘Metropolis’ as well as ‘Shoot You In The Back’ and ‘Dancing On Your Grave’. Preaching to the converted (or should that be perverted?), the ‘head round things off in fine style with the double whammy of ‘Ace Of Spades’ and ‘Overkill’. While it’s not quite on par with ‘No Sleep…’, as live albums go ‘Better Motorhead Than Dead’ kicks the leather jacketed arse off 99% of today’s rock pack.
Long overdue re-issue of seminal North-East punk.
Way back in the late seventies there was a real holy trinity of female punk singers. The Ice Queen Siouxsie fronting The Banshees, Mrs. Styrene’s Polly screaming her way to success with X-Ray Spex and arguably the best, the breathy all possessing voice of Pauline Murray from Penetration. ‘Moving Targets’, the band’s debut album released in late 1978 saw the new piece line-up augmented by second guitarist Fred Purser who added his fancy fretwork to proceedings adding extra melodic colour to the bands earlier frantic driving sound. Throughout though it’s Murray who gains the plaudits, cooing and caressing one minute then spiralling upwards to the very limit the next. The combined result lifts the album head and shoulders beyond so many of their contemporaries’ period pieces. Add to this the bonus of the first two singles and you’ve an almost flawless collection of first wave punk.
THE COMPLETE RAPED PUNK COLLECTION
Keep away from the guys with the funny eyes!
Yeah, you read that right, Raped. This dropped through my letterbox and my hangover immediately felt worse. The complete recordings of a pack of schmucks who slithered thru the newly kicked-open doors in 1977 togged up like a pack of rent boys (I’m guessing they may have known the territory), and announced themselves to a disbelieving public with the ‘Pretty Paedophiles’ EP (yeah, you read that right too), all tracks present here. Still, bad taste such as this is one of the reasons punk rock exists; it’s to piss off your parents (mine came round yesterday and I HID this CD!) and to provoke newspaper copy along the lines of: "a disgusted cinema manager stopped the Saturday morning show when notorious punk rock group Raped shocked children by using obscene language". A guilty pleasure indeed, but there’s a perverse kick to be had from this kind of cesspool punk trash; it’s shameless, it’s grubby, it’s very funny, and hell, these songs are pretty good if you can suspend your distaste long enough. If your mum catches you with this, you never heard about it from me.
HI FI STEREO
The Rev unleashes his mighty organ.
Most of you discerning fans of all things ‘billy related will be familiar with Jim Heath in his Reverend Horton Heat persona but what you might not be aware of is his fondness for the sound of the Hammond Organ. The good Rev found a suitable jazz organist in Tim Alexander, and drafting in drummer Todd Soesbe they set about recreating those cool keyboard sounds of the 60’s. The overall result is a kind of acid jazz/mod crossover which does admittedly get a tad cheesy in places. But they really pull it out of the bag with a ‘A Shot In The Dark’ (AKA Inspector Cousteau’s Theme music) and the coolest version of the ‘James Bond’ theme you’re ever hear likely to hear.
THE PUNK SINGLES COLLECTION
UK reggae punks 45 revolutions.
With the death of lead singer Malcolm Owen in July 1980, the short but meteoric rise of UK punks The Ruts was cut short. This singles ‘best of’ pulls together all their chart 45s like the mighty ‘Babylon’s Burning’ and ‘Something That I Said’ plus debut ‘In A Rut’, ‘Staring At The Rude Boys’, ‘Jah War’ and ‘West One’. Together with B-sides and the Captain’s usual informative sleeve notes, it’s a perfect introduction to one of the UK’s finest and most underrated ’70s punk acts.
THE SCOURGE OF RIVER CITY
THE SCOURGE OF RIVER CITY
Soon to be the pride of River City.
The Scourge Of River City have followed up their already big live reputation with a debut album of some quality. They really do have and eclectic mixture of influences that they absorb and regurgitate as an unrecognisable but distinctly familiar though hugely original sound. They utilise a double bass but don’t centre on it and they have a definite aural charisma that defies their understated image because it’s all about the music. Catchy choruses abound in an album full of killer and often poles apart tunes. There are hints of a Hellcat influence in there in places as well as glimpses of psychobilly but the whole album sure rocks and should ensnare and endear themselves at first attempt to an audience that won’t know what’s hit them.
THE SEX PISTOLS
Classic Pistols bootleg repackaged.
The bootleg ‘Spunk’ album beat the Sex Pistols’ ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ into the shops in 1977, much to the chagrin of Virgin boss Richard Branson, and just to add insult to injury, was probably a better set. Comprising of demos recorded by Dave Goodman at the band’s Denmark Street rehearsal room, Riverside Studios and Lansdowne Studios in 1976 and Gooseberry Studios and Eden Studios in January 1977, the results were raw, but captured the early Pistols’ fury perfectly. Here you get the album, with the same tracks as last year’s CD and vinyl reissues, but this time they’re all on 7” singles in a box. Unfortunately I can’t tell you much more than that as we just got a CD copy with few details, but it still all sounds great to me.
A solo debut that’s worth the wait from the former Banshee.
It feels like she’s been away forever, but ‘Mantaray’, Siouxsie’s first solo effort, sees punk rock’s former ice maiden creatively doing very nicely. Having burned her bridges with the Banshees, her main vehicle for two decades, the kaleidoscopic patterns of Siouxsie’s muse are still shifting, achieving rich fruition with ‘Mantaray’s sonic cross-pollinations. Into A Swan breaks several years of musical silence with naggingly insistent overdrive, coming on like T-Rex filtered through an eastern film score, Siouxsie’s vocals having lost none of their imperious grandeur. ‘Here Comes That Day’ retains the cinematic flavour, all stabbing brass and swooping theramin, while there’s echoes of former glories with the ‘Creatures In Loveless’s marimba motifs. ‘If It Doesn’t Kill You’ is a torchy slow burn, while ‘Sea Of Tranquility’ with its tabla-driven rhythms and swirling sonic plumes is a beguiling pleasure. Signing off with ‘Heaven And Alchemy’, Siouxsie drops her guard for some piano-led after-hours introspection; like a good liqueur, the song puts the close on a sensory sonic banquet, and one that’s done the former Ms Susan Ballion proud.
SPEAR OF DESTINY
GRAPES OF WRATH 3/5 / ONE EYED JACKS 4/5
Epic ‘80s post-punk rockers.
Kirk Brandon shot to fame when his goth punk band Theatre Of Hate crashed into the UK charts on the back of the single ‘Do You Believe In The Westworld’. While TOH only lasted one album his next band, Spear of Destiny, fared a lot better and are still playing on and off today. Their debut album, 1983’s ‘Grapes Of Wrath’, was a much more straightforward rock approach, but epic in every way. Containing the chart single ‘The Wheel’, SOD were up and running but it was the follow-up ‘One Eyed Jacks’ that saw them hit their stride. Chart anthems like ‘Liberator’ and the soaring ‘Prisoner Of Love’ smashed into the charts off the back of Brandon’s majestic voice, howling saxophone and super tight five-piece band. Kirk Brandon’s voice survives as strong as ever today and live he’s still a real force to be reckoned with. Highly recommended.
DIG YOURSELF DEEP
Cracking new album from Irish punk maestros.
When The Undertones returned to the fray without original singer Feargal Sharkey, a good number of eyebrows were raised – not due to anyone doubting the abilities of the other members, but because his shrill vibrato delivery was so distinctive. The unenviable task of filling the Sharkey shoes went to Paul McLoone, but he quickly convinced the doubters, perfectly fitting in with the right pitch and tone, but avoiding what could have been an embarrassing parody of his predecessor. The Undertones’ 2003 album ‘Get What You Need’ was well received, as have been many live shows, and ‘Dig Yourself Deep’ is even better. John O’Neill, always the band’s main songwriter, is at his best here, with many songs that hark back to the band’s early, goofy, love-sick material. Wisely, though, the likes of ‘Him Not Me’ and ‘Everything You Say Is Right’ are tales of more mature relationships and failed marriage, not teen angst. They still have the same affect though: fantastically joyous tunes with a bittersweet edge.
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